Visa Europe revenues soar as 'contactless' card use takes off

LONDON (Reuters) - Visa Europe posted record revenues of 2.31 billion euros ($2.5 billion) for the year to June 30 on Tuesday, up 25 percent on the previous year, thanks in part to a rapid increase in popularity of its ‘contactless’ cards.

Some 1.58 trillion euros was spent on Visa cards in Europe in the year to the end of June, an annual increase of 7.7 percent, as more consumers switched from making cash payments to the convenience of contactless cards, which enable transactions without signatures or PIN numbers. The number of Visa cards issued in Europe now stands at 522 million, equivalent to more than one Visa card per adult. Payments on Visa debit and credit cards now account for more than one euro in every 5.70 euros spent in Europe, Visa Europe said.

“Contactless transaction growth is off the chart – in 2015 we went through the billion contactless transaction-a-year barrier – and in a leading market like the UK it’s fast making cash seem peculiar,” Visa Europe CEO Nicolas Huss said in a statement. It said there were 1.7 billion contactless transactions in the year to September, and that one in seven transactions in Britain were now made with contactless cards, compared with 1 in 25 in the previous year.

Costs were flat for a fourth consecutive year and fraud remains at record low levels of less than 5 cents for every 100 euros spent, or 0.044 percent of spending in the year to June.

Visa Europe returned 739 million euros to its member-shareholders in the form of rebates and joint-investment activities in 2015, its most successful financial year ever. Visa Inc V.N announced plans to buy Visa Europe for up to 21.2 billion euros in November, in a deal aimed at unlocking value for members and accelerating growth and investment for the benefit of Visa cardholders.

The deal, which is due to complete in the third quarter, is expected to yield billions of euros in windfalls for the 3,000 banks and payment firms that own the Visa Europe network.

Reporting by Sinead Cruise; editing by Adrian Croft